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Question:

I find many different sayings about some of the verses of al-Qur'an. Some are taken literally and some are not. We know that the Qur'an pertains 2 types of verses muhkam (clear with one meaning verses) and Mutashabih verses (more than one meaning). What did Salaf say about the Verses of al-Qur'an that are Mutashabihat?

 

Answer:

Bismillah, praise be to Allah and we ask Allah to raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad more and to grant us sincerity,

Rest assured that the way and methodologies of both the scholars of Islam from Salaf and the Khalaf are correct and neither of them attribute anything to Allah that does not befit Him.

In simple terms, one correct way of explaining the mutashabihat ayat in the Qur'an is to say one believes in them according to the meaning that Allah willed without saying what that meaning is; and without a 'how,' i.e., without attributing to Allah sitting, standing, occupying places, sensuous attributes, or any of the meanings that apply to humans and other creations. Following this method, one would say: "Allah has an istiwa' which befits Him--which is not sitting, and Allah has a yad which befits Him--which is not a hand, and a wajh that befits Him--which is not a face." This was the way of the majority of the Salaf, accepting the attributes without "kayf" without the manners of being, without likening Allah to the creations in any way and with clearing Allah from a body or bodily parts or organs.

Nevertheless, it is well known that some of the scholars of the Salaf did attribute specific meanings (Ta'weel) to the mutashabihat ayat. In his Sahih, in the chapter Tafsirul-Qur'an (the explanation of the Qur'an,) Imam al-Bukhariyy attributed a specific meaning to the term "illa wajhahu" in Surat al­Qasas, ayah 88. He said, "illa mulkahu," i.e., he said that word "wajh"--which is an attribute of Allah--means "Mulk" or "Dominion."

The second correct way of explaining the mutashabihat ayat in the Qur'an is to give specific meanings to them (Ta'weel) which are in accordance with the Religion and the language. Following this method, one would say: "His istiwa' means 'He preserves the throne,' His yad means 'His Care,' His wajh means 'His Self,' 'His Dominion, as al-Bukhariy said' or 'His Qiblah.' as Ibn Abbas and Mujahid said.

Both are accepted methods in Islam. As long as the person clears Allah from resembling the creations, or having a body or a form or an image, or attributing space or place or direction to Allah. And note that Ibn Hajar said that the belief of the scholars from the Salaf and Khalaf is that Allah exists without being in a place or a direction, and the aboveness when attributed to Allah it refers to aboveness in status and not in place. And as Imam Abu Hanifah said: "Allah existed eternally without being in a place and without a direction".

 


 

Examples of Ta'weel from scholars of Salaf:

1. In the chapter, Tafsir al­Qur'an, (Explanation of the meaning of the Qur'an), Imam al-Bukhariyy says that the term "wajhahu" in Surat al­Qasas,ayah 88, means "His Dominion." However, those mushabbihah who liken Allah to the creation say, "We do not interpret, but rather we go by the literal meaning," and hence (they say) wajhahu means "His face."

2. In Surat al-Qalam, ayah 42, Allah said: {يوم يكشف عن ساق} The scholars of the Salaf explained the term "saq" by 'hardship,' and the ayah to mean 'a day of anguish and hardship.' This explanation is known to have been given by: Ibn ^Abbas, Mujahid, Ibrahim an Nakh^iyy, Qatadah, Sa^id Ibn Jubayr, and a multiple of scholars.

Both Imam al-Fakhr ar­Raziyy in his Explanation of the Qur'an, Volume 30, page 94 and Imam al-Bayhaqiyy in his books, Al-'Asma' was­Sifat, (page 245) and Fath-al-Bari, (Volume 13, page 428) related this explanation from Ibn ^Abbas. Ibn Qulayb also related that about Sa^id Ibn Jubayr who took his knowledge from ^Abdullah Ibn ^Abbas and Ibn ^Umar. Yet, the mushabbihah insist on taking the literal meaning and attribute 'the shin' to Allah, by saying saq literally means 'shin.' 

3. In Surat-ul-Baqarah, ayah 115, Allah said: فأينما تولوا فثم وجه الله Imam Mujahid, the student of Ibn ^Abbas, said that the word wajh means 'qiblah,' i.e., the direction of prayers during the voluntary prayers while traveling and riding on an animal. Yet, the mushabbihah insist on taking the literal meaning; they say the term, wajh, means 'face.'

4. Ayah 22 in Suratal-Fajr: وجاء ربك If taken literally, ayah 22 in Suratal-Fajr:Ayah 22 in Suratal-Fajrwould mean: "Your Lord comes."!! It was related that Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, who is among the authorities of the Salaf, said that this ayah means: [An indication of the Power of Allah has come.] In his book, ManaqibAhmad, Hafidh Imam al­Bayhaqiyy, established that the sanad (chain) of narrators is sahih (authentic).

5. Ibn al-Jawziyy al­Hanbaliyy, one of the authorities of the school of Imam Ahmad, related that Imam Ahmad assigned specific, acceptable meanings to the ayat which are mutashabihat. He also said this is a proof that Imam Ahmad did not believe that the maji'ah (a noun for the verb ja'a) in the ayah is that of movement from one place to another. Imam Ibn al­Jawziyy also said: "It is not possible that Allah would move." Yet, the mushabbihah insist on taking the literal meaning and say that ja'a means "Your Lord comes" (i.e., from one place to another.)

6. The hadith of the Prophet related by al­Bukhariyy (Hadith an-Nuzool) was explained and affirmed by Imam Malik:قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ينزل ربنا كل ليلة. رواه البخاري. أي ينزل بأمره. as a descent of mercy and not that of movement. However, the mushabbihah insist on taking the literal meaning and they say the nuzul in the hadith means a descent of movement and going from one place to another.

7. Copying from Imam al-'Ash^ariyy, Imam al­Bayhaqiyy, in his book, Al-Asma' was-Sifat, page 488, said: "Allah, ta^ala, is not in a place. Movement, coming to rest, and sitting are among the attributes of bodies."

8.  Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbaliyy explained in SuratTaha, ayah 5: الرحمن على العرش استوى {ar-Rahmanu ^alal-^arsh istawa} the term al-istiwa' as al-istila', which means subjugating. When al­istila' is used to explain this ayah it means that Allah subjugated the ^arsh with a subjugation that is without a beginning, like all of the attributes of Allah. If the ayah is explained in this manner, it means that Allah was attributed with subjugating the ^arsh before the ^arsh was created in the same way that Allah was attributed with being the Creator before anything from the creation existed. In this context, the scholars have used the term al-azal, which means the status of existing without a beginning. Thus it can be said that Allah subjugated the ^arsh in al-azal, meaning that Allah subjugated the ^arsh with a subjugation which is without a beginning. Yet the mushabbihah insist on taking the literal meaning, and they say istiwa' means Allah 'sits' on the throne and 'firmly establishes' Himself on it.

9. In his book, Al-Mu^taqad, Imam al­Bayhaqiyy related in a chain back to al­'Awza^iyy and Imam Malik and Sufyan ath-Thawriyy and al­Layth Ibn Sa^d that when they were asked about the ayat and the ahadith that are mutashabihat, they said: which means: "Accept them as they came without applying a 'how' to them." This is because if one asked the question 'how?' the answer would be, 'Like this or that.' Everything other than Allah is His creation so to say 'like this or that' would mean 'like this or that created thing' and Allah is not like His creation. Anything a person can imagine, Allah is different from it. When the scholars said: "... without applying a 'how' to them," they meant that Allah is clear of being attributed with sitting, resting, moving, limbs, bodies, and parts. They did not mean that His istiwa' over the throne has a 'how' of which we are ignorant. On the contrary, the scholars completely negated that a 'how' could be applied to Allah. So the statement of those who say "Allah sits on the throne but we do not know how," is rejected on the basis of what these scholars said.

10. Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniyy (Among the Khalaf scholars), in his book, Al­Fath (an explanation of the meaning of Sahih al­Bukhariyy), Volume 6, page 39-40, said: " ..... in reference to al-Bukhariyy's saying that the attribute of Allah, ad-dahik, means 'mercy,' it is closer to say that it means 'acceptance of deeds.' Yet, the mushabbihah insist on taking the literal meaning, and they say that Allah smiles, or laughs.

Yet the mushabbihah (Wahhabis) innovated their own way of understanding al-Qur'an. Among those who have perversity in their hearts are the mushabbihah, those who liken Allah to His creation. The followers of Ibn Taymiyah and Muhammad Ibn ^Abdil­Wahhab are among the group of the mushabbihah. They falsely claim that it is prohibited to assign specific meanings (Ta'weel) to the mutashabihat ayat and especially those that pertain to the attributes of Allah. Moreover, they innovated a devilish rule that assigning specific meanings to these ayat would lead to canceling these attributes of Allah. This claim of theirs leads to interpretations of the ayat of the Qur'an that contradict one another and interpretations of the ahadith of the Prophet that contradict one another and contradict the ayat of the Qur'an.

Furthermore, their claim accuses the Islamic scholars among the Salaf and the Khalaf of blasphemy for denying the attributes of Allah. This would include: Ibn ^Abbas, Sufyan ath­Thawriyy, Mujahid, Sa^id Ibn Jubayr, Malik, Ahmad, al­Bukhariyy, an-Nawawiyy, Ibn Rajab al­Hanbaliyy, Ibn-ul-Jawziyy, Ibn Hajar, al­Bayhaqiyy, Abu Fadl at-Tamimiyy, ^Abdul-Qahir al-Baghdadiyy, the linguist and scholar of hadith Murtada az-Zabidiyy, and others.

We urge all Muslims to adhere to the Jama^ah of the Muslims, and to abide by the scholarly consensus (ijma^) of the scholars from the four schools,  and be warned from innovations and innovators who strayed from this creed and Allah knows best.